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A SUMMARY REVIEW OF 1789.
voured to mark the principal events, and catch fomewhat of the features of every succeeding month of the memorable year that has been just closed; we shall, on this occasion, take a fummary review of 1789, and the situation of affairs at the commencement of 1790.
The year 1789 exhibited, in the most lively colours, the power of opinion and example over standing armies and the authority of established governments; the rights of human nature recognised and asserted; armies of men refusing to be instruments of arbitrary power, and doing homage to the genius of justice; the spirit of liberty beaming with pure and mild rays in the most enlightened nation of Europe not many years ago enslaved by despotical maxims and forms of government, and opinions and manners to which those maxims and forms
birth; freedom bursting forth from France as from a centre, and enlarging her dominions on every side; a murmur of indignant discontent beginning to pervade the oppressed subjects of the most arbitrary governments in Europe; a gleam of hope breaking in upon the Ilave, and kings and emperors trembling on their thrones. Yet, fo complicated is the chain that connects human affairs, and so various and intricate the relations of things, that the same circumstances that gave liberty to some countries contributed to diminish it in a state that, in its formation and progress, has illustrated with peculiar energy, the force of a spirit of freedom. This event, we should bitterly deplore, if the general diffusion of knowledge, and the vicinity of free nations, did not fecure the people of the United Provinces against any of those evils which might otherwise be apprehended from the increased power of the Stadtholder,
The King of France undoubtedly regarded the Compte de Vergennes as the great pillar of his power and glory, when he saw him extending his intrigues, and establishing the influence of the court of Versailles in almost all the kingdoms and states of Europe, crossing the Atlantic, and dislevering North America from the British empire. How limited are our views into fue
turity, and how little are political revolutions under the control of human wisdom! The active and provident policy of the French monarchy in emancipating the Anglo-Americans from the British government; in forming an alliance, by blood, with the house of Austria ; in paying sedulous court to the Empress of Ruffia; in conniving at the joint attack of the Ruffians and Austrians on the Turkih empire.-The policy of the French monarchy, in these and other measures, though carried on, tó all appearance, with apparent success, blindly laboured for its own fall. The influence of the American revolution on the minds of a quick, sensible, high-spirited, and enlightened nation, was such as might have been expected, and it was indeed predicted. Men who fought for liberty abroad, naturally conceived that they had a right to enjoy it at home. The sparks of freedom that every where had been scattered by the writings of Rousseau, Voltaire, Turgot, and other writers trained in the school of Montesquieu, the NEWTON of jurisprudence and all political economy, were kindled into a flame. An univerial diffusion of knowledge, and great refinement and mildness of manners, conspired to effect a civil revolution in favour of liberty, without bloodshed. The National Assembly of France, the most enlightened to be found in the records of history, conceived the fublime idea of establishing a form of government, not on precedents which have ever changed, and will ever be changing, but on that great moral law which is founded in principles immutable and eternal. It was generally faid, at first, that in launching forth into the regions of metaphytical speculation, and the disputes hence to be expected, the French patriots hazarded more than it was prudent to hazard at such a crisis, Time, it was apprehended, would be wasted in endless debate; the zeal of the nation might cool; a passion for the glory of the king and the monarchy might return; and all things revert into their old channel. It was therefore suggested that they ought, in imitation of the English at the revolution in 1688, feize, as it were, fome strong holds on the spot, pass some strong and leading resolutions in favour of freedom, without penetrating to the bottom of matters, and moving more than they might be able to wield; and, fince they could not form a civil and
political conftitution on any abstracted model, secure some important points in the mean time, and advance afterwards, according to circumstances and opportunities, to greater perfection. But the leaders of the National Affembly, or, in other words, the Genius that fully and fairly represented France, thought otherwise, and, as has since appeared, thought justly.
They made a jufier estimate of the moderation and the reasonableness of the French people; who, in the interval between the 8
death of the old, and the birth of the new government, exhibited the most striking instance that has at any time or place been given to the world of the importance of education, and how much the want or the weakness of laws may be supplied by manners and opinions. The French nation, having not a law, were a law unto themselves; for the few outrages that were committed appear as nothing when compared with the magnitude and boldness of the enterprise ; and the multitudes that were associated for the purpose in different parts of a wide-extended and populous country.
The new legislature of France have.in their proceedings displayed deep knowledge, great good sense and temper in their conduct. It is not any part of our defign to illustrate these positions by a detail of particulars; we shall just observe, that a political revolution in France may already be considered as completely established, and that a greater portion of the democratical spirit will probably be infused into the new constitution than was generally thought to be possible. On the other hand, more checks will be provided againft the levity and turbulence of democracy than were ever eltablished before in any republic, ancient or modern. The groundwork of this conititution appears to be the same with that delineated by Mr. Hume in his idea of a perfect commonwealth.
Thus, on the whole, the late glorious revolution in France has been born by very gentle throws, by the mild power of extended knowledge and humanity. The ratio of the schools, and the ultima ratio regum have, in France, made a coalition. Ream son is armed with the authority of government; and who will henceforward deride metaphysics armed with the point of the bayonet?
As the French monarchy laboured for its own destruction in emancipating North America from Great Britain, so also, as we have observed above, it laboured for the fame end in intrigues with other powers. Had not the French court been industriously employed in exciting a revolt against the Stadtholder, they would not have experienced the mortification of seeing their friends humbled, and their enemies in the United Provinces, exalted on their ruins. Had not the Austrians and Russians, with their connivance, made war on the Turks, the emperor would have been at hand, with a numerous and veteran army, to support the Austrian faction, and monarchical power, against the innoyations of the patriots. The employment of the Austrian armies on the side of Turkey was also extremely favourable to the revolt in the Netherlands, the feeds of which had been fown by the progress of knowledge, ande attempts of the emperor įn 1787
AUSTRIAN NETHERLANDS. From the accommodation by which the disturbances of the Austrian Netherlands were brought at the conclusion of 1787, it seemed reasonable to conclude that the foundation was laid of good understanding between the prince and the people, and of future tranquillity in the provinces. But the event has not corresponded to that expectation, and a more troubled scene now presents itself in the Austrian Netherlands, where the provinces are in arms, and an open revolt from the authority of the em-, peror has taken place. The rash and precipitate measures of the sovereign, too impatient of the control of a limited monarchy, and too little instructed by the former disturbances in his Flemish Provinces, have given rise to this revolt of his fubjects. In the year 1787 candour was willing to suppose that the sovereign had been surprised into the arbitrary measures that were then pursued; in the year 1789 that apology can no longer be made. It may be permitted, in this place, to take a slight view of the chief occurrences in the Austrian Netherlands in the two years that have elapsed since our narrative was closed.
A RETROSPECT OF THE EMPEROR'S CONDUCT. Though, by the concessions which the emperor made in September 1787, and by that ratification which confirmed them, the grievances which formed the principal matters of complaint were redressed, yet it was easily seen that entire confidence was not restored between the prince and his subjects. The jealousy and dissatisfaction which remained in the minds of the people were not removed in the year 1788. Suspicions were still entera tained, upon no flight grounds, that the sovereign sought to ftrain his prerogative beyond due bounds, and though an act of amnesty was granted by the emperor, it was not found that he had laid aside his resentment against those persons who had been most active in the late opposition. The general tenor of ad, . ministration was ill-suited to gain popularity. Instead of those lenient measures by which angry spirits are conciliated, a harsh and severe plan of governing was adopted; the army was entrusted to a commander who was thought well fitted to carry rigorous orders into execution; the strong arm of authority was lifted up to intimidate the Assembly of the States; and many acts, at once vexatious and arbitrary, were complained of. The re-eitablishment of the seminary of Louvain tended greatly to increase the popular discontents. That measure, which was insisted on by the sovereign as a condition on which the concessions had been made, well intended to promote a more liberal education in theology, and to restrain the growth of bigotry, but highly unacceptable to the clergy and a great part of the
nation, was obstinately urged, with too little regard to religious prejudices, or the temper of the times, and with too little respect to the privileges of the country. Severities were inflicted on the ecclesiastics, who were less obedient to the mandates of the prince on this subject; the soldiery were employed to enforce harsh edicts, and a catholic prince, through excess of zeal for toleration, became too little tolerating to his catholic subjects. This indiscreet proceeding, beheld with dislike by all the provinces, was particularly odious in Brabant, which ranks Lou-; vain among her principal cities, and has a special care of its privileges. The minds of men, already indisposed and alarmed for their civil rights, were more inflamed by religious zeal; a general discontent prevailed, and, at the close of the year 1788, the States of Brabant expressed their diffatisfaction with the measures of governinent, by refusing to grant the ordinary subsidies.
CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR REFUSAL. This refusal of the States drew on them the heavy displeasure of the sovereign, already irritated by the resistance that had been made to the seminary of Louvain; and, yielding to his resentment, the monarch now allowed himself to be hurried into violent and arbitrary measures. By an edict addressed to the province of Brabant, in January 1789, he not only annulled that ratification, by which the former disturbances had been composed, and the subsequent act of amnesty, but, as if disengaged from that compact, into which he had entered at his acceflion, he recalled that prangaffal oath which he had sworn to maintain the Joyous Entry, and the privileges of the people. He signified that those establishments created in the year 1787, which had caused so great alarms, and which he had agreed to abolish, should be revived in their full extent; that the intendants should forthwith enter on their offices; and that no abbots were to be named in future to the vacant abbies in Brabant: he denounced severe chastisements against all who should' in any wise call in question or oppose those acts of his administration. The submission of the States, which foon followed their refusal to grant the subsidies, did not long engage the sovereign to suspend the execution of this fevere decree. The council of Brabant, according to its known privilege, having refused to give its fanction to edicts that were repugnant to the laws, that fupreme tribunal, a main support of the liberties of the country, was fupprefied. The States were dispossessed of their juft office, and that care of the public revenue, which belonged to their committee, was bestowed on persons appointed by a commission from the prince. That assembly, in other respects, felt the effects of the displeasure of the sovereign. That power which they had exercised, of withholding the subfidies, was affirmed not to belong to them by right. As it was